Christmas is a wonderful time of year for us in ministry. We get to celebrate the birth of Christ, our churches are decorated from wall to wall, people bring us yummy things all the time (shoutout to the person who brought Christmas tree cakes to my office today!), and we get to watch our kids be the cutest shepherds.
But Christmas is stressful as well. There are a number of commitments we have to satisfy, we're finishing preparing budgets, we're taking care of year-end business, there are additional services and emphases with the Christmas holiday coming, and on top of that we're trying to balance our family life. Sometimes it feels we're like Clark stressed out when Cousin Eddie tells him that he'll be staying for a month with the RV.
1. Don't say yes to everything - Chances are you'll be invited to more activities, more parties, more events than you can possibly fit on the calendar. No matter the size church you're in, it's very hard to say yes to everything asked of you during Christmas. At times you will have to say no, and that's ok. You are not Superman. Don't pretend to be what you're not.
2. Prioritize your family - Part of saying no to others is so you can say yes to your family. During Christmas, your priority list hasn't changed. Your commitments are first to Christ, second to your family, third to your church. It won't be "balanced" because balance is impossible. But it is possible to work in rhythms. With that comes the realization that every 6 years Christmas is going to be on Sunday. You don't get to cancel so you can open presents. Prioritizing your family includes teaching them the needs of ministry sometimes happen unexpectedly. So when a death or crisis occurs, even on Christmas morning, duty calls.
3. Communicate clearly - The reason why some people struggle in ministry during Christmas is they've not communicated things clearly. If you're on staff as a second chair, have honest conversations with your pastor or leadership team. If you're a lead pastor be clear with your leadership teams about what your family's plans for travel are and what your availability is. Communicating expectations for your staff are important too.
4. Celebrate well - The joy of the Christmas season is that it's not always about work, there's times to celebrate. The people you work alongside all year long are treasures God has given you, so take time to celebrate with them. I'm excited about our staff Christmas party, and the inflatable reindeer antlers we're busting out for a game with them. It's fun. It should be.
5. Buckle up - Ministry isn't for sissies. And if you can't take some holiday stress without flipping out like Clark Griswold, you might be in the wrong field. The Christmas season is busy. You're going to be tired. You're going to be drained emotionally. There'll be long days and short nights. Push through, everything is a season.
Pastors, how do you survive Christmas?
Scott M. Douglas
A blog about leadership and the lasting legacy of family ministry.